It felt more like a heavyweight-boxing match than a college basketball game.
With No. 15/14 San Diego State and the No. 23 University of Nevada, Las Vegas trading jabs early on, the Runnin’ Rebels landed a left hook by jumping out to a 16-8 lead early in the first half.
But the Aztecs responded with a punch of their own, going on a 10-2 run to tie the score at 18, capped by a three-pointer by junior guard Jamaal Franklin.
The Rebels again jumped out to a sizeable lead, going on a 6-0 run, but the Aztecs were able to close the gap and tie the game once again at 31 with a little more than seven minutes left in the half. Less than a minute later, the Aztecs grabbed the lead 35-34 when freshman forward Winston Shepard connected on two free throws with 6:25 left in the first half.
The Rebels regained the lead and led the Aztecs 48-42 at halftime.
The second half began much like the first, with both teams trading baskets until the Rebels scored consecutively, extending their lead to 10, their largest of the game, less than four minutes into the game.
SDSU was able to eventually cut the deficit to three with 12:28 left in the game, thanks to a 6-0 run.
The Aztecs scored the next six points of the game to take a 63-60 lead with 9:52 left. The teams continued to trade slim leads until the Rebels were able to distance themselves, grabbing a four-point lead with 5:39 left in the game.
The Aztecs kept it close and tied the score at 73 with 3:43 left in the game, when Franklin made a layup while being fouled and subsequently made the free throw for a three-point play.
But UNLV went on to take the three-point lead with one minute remaining, before sophomore forward Khem Birch grabbed the offensive rebound off a miss and put it in to give the Rebels the 80-75.
The Aztecs never recovered, falling to UNLV 82-75 to drop to 14-3 overall and 2-1 in conference play.
Trailing 60-51 with 15:02 left in the game, the Aztecs went on a 12-0 run to take the lead 63-60 with 9:52 left. Shepard and freshman forward Skylar Spencer were instrumental during the run, scoring six of the team’s 12 points.
It was over when…
UNLV senior guard Anthony Marshall tried a fadeaway jumper outside the key, which missed, but was rebounded by Birch, who put it in to give the Rebels the 80-75 lead with 26 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Franklin lost the ball while driving to the hoop. The Rebels recovered the ball and went on to win the game.
Play of the game
A UNLV player had possession of the ball on the ground, but his pass to a teammate was immediately stolen by senior guard Chase Tapley, who made a bounce pass in transition between two defenders to Franklin, who dunked it with two hands to give SDSU the 2-0 lead early in the game.
Player of the game
Shepard had his finest game as an Aztec, pouring in a career-high 18 points, along with five rebounds and five assists. It is the second time in his career he has scored in double digits.
Statistic of the game
Despite winning the turnover battle 12-5, the Aztecs were outrebounded by the Rebels 43-31 in the game.
- Franklin scored SDSU’s first five points of the game.
- Shepard and UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett were former teammates at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.
- Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg and San Diego Padres manager Bud Black, both former SDSU pitchers, were in attendance.
- Franklin led at scorers at half with 17 points.
- UNLV outscored SDSU 26-14 in the paint after one half.
- Both benches scored 23 points in the game.